Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) topped off his incredible World Cup season by winning the his fifth race in seven rounds at the World Cup Final in Val di Sole. Kulhavy fended off a strong challenge by the Swiss duo of Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel (both Scott-Swisspower) to outsprint Schurter for the win.
In previous races this year Kulhavy has attacked early, riding away from the rest of the field. This time, he allowed Schurter and Vogel to set the pace over the six laps, content to follow them up the steep climbs, never looking to be in difficulty.
The trio dropped Julien Absalon (Orbea) by the second lap, and the Frenchman chased in vain all race, eventually finishing fourth. Behind Absalon, a chase group formed, containing world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Lukas and Matthias Flückiger (Trek World Racing), Stephane Tempier (TX Active Bianchi), Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Todd Wells (Specialized), Thomas Litscher (Felt Oetztal X-Bionic), Manuel Fumic (Cannondale) and Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Wildwolf-Trek).
This group was steadily losing ground, and started shedding riders as the race wore on, with Lukas Flückiger eventually dropping the remaining members to take the fifth and final podium spot.
A crash on the start loop also took out of contention some top riders, including Burry Stander (Specialized), who began the first lap 120th, and rode an amazing race to finish 23rd.
In the front trio, Vogel was finally dropped on the fifth lap, leaving Schurter to try and ditch Kulhavy, without success. Kulhavy attacked in the final kilometre and easily outsprinted Schurter, popping a wheelie as he crossed the line.
"He was playing with us," commented Schurter, a little bitterly. "I tried to attack, but he just sat on, and I could not drop him. I will have to think about what I can do in the next two weeks, to be able to beat him at the Worlds, but it will be hard."
"I am very happy to have won the World Cup," said Kulhavy, "but I am surprised that I was able to ride so well on a course with so much climbing. This has been a perfect season for me."
Kulhavy finishes the series with five firsts, one second and a third, for a total of 1610 points. Schurter is a distant second, with 1270 and Absalon holds onto third with 960 points. Hermida took four with 813 points, just squeaking ahead of Maxime Marotte (BH-Suntour-Peisey Vallandry) at 810. Todd Wells was the top North American, in 21st, followed by Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) in 24th.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com